NHL Realignment: Radical Plan Hopefully Gaining Support

via l.yimg.com

Lost in the debate last night over the Mark Fistric hit and the absolute ridiculousness that was the game against the Islanders was the fact that Hockey Night in Canada debuted a new, radical realignment plan that supposedly pleases just about every team with concerns.

Above, you'll see the new proposed realignment plan that will supposedly be presented by the NHL to the Board of Governors next week in Pebble Beach* that has 16 teams in the West and 14 in the East, and places Detroit and Dallas together in the same division. This is very similar to the previous four-division proposal that was discussed a few weeks ago, with several significant changes.

*Interesting that a league with offices in Toronto and NYC would have their most important meeting of the year at Pebble Beach. Of course, I would do the same thing if I could.

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The main issue with the previous radical plan was the separation of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Apparently, that was too much for the two teams to deal with and there was talk that any plan that had the two separate would never pass. This proposal fixes that by putting the two together and effectively breaking up the "Atlantic" division, placing Tampa Bay and Florida in the same division with five teams that all reside north of New York City.

The major part of the realignment plan also calls for changes in the schedule. The proposal would have each team would play a home and home against all teams in the other divisions (46 games) and the remaining games (36 games) would be played within the division. The best part about the plan wouldn't come until the playoffs, however, when the first two rounds would be purely divisional playoffs before being reseeded for the semifinals.

Of course, the initial reaction to this is "OH NO, LOOK AT ALL THE TRAVEL FOR FLORIDA AND TAMPA BAY" as well as cries about the proposed travel for the other Eastern Conference. While I could care less about the New York and Pennsylvania teams having to travel so far for divisional play against Carolina, I can certainly see why the teams in Florida would be upset.

Basically, in order to kowtow to Philly and Pittsburgh, the NHL is asking the two Florida teams to geographically fly over the other Eastern division to play teams in their own division. It's ridiculous and shows just how much influence certain franchises can have in sports leagues and it's unfortunate.

Here's a good look at the geographical alignment of this proposal. (via Cassie at RawCharge)

Nhl-realignment-map_2011-12-03__1__medium

Of course, my response to all of this is a bit apathetic towards the teams in the East. This isn't about travel alone, it's about making the game more accessible to fans.

No matter what happens, those teams on the East coast will still be playing all of their divisional games in the same time zone. While flying from Tampa Bay to Ottawa certainly isn't a cakewalk for a divisional game, it's no different than what teams like Dallas have to do to play games against San Jose and Anaheim -- and those games start at 9:30 p.m. in Dallas. This is where the issue lies.

According to this proposal, the Stars would be in the same division with Winnipeg and Minnesota, so travel for the Stars would be no different than that of the two Florida teams. While I understand the irony of the Eastern Conference divisional alignment, I have zero sympathy for them if this realignment were to pass. After all, nearly the same divisional alignment would be met with cries of joy in Dallas.

There is also the chance that this particular proposal is not the radical proposal that will be passed next week. There is still talk out there that the Detroit Red Wings are moving East, which would make sense. This alignment has an uneven number of teams in each conference and with the same number of teams making the playoffs, would only further the narrative that the East is a much easier conference. Not to mention it was a promise made to the Red Wings that apparently the NHL is set to make good on.

Detroit moving east would then have 15 teams in each conference with one division each have seven teams and the other eight. How does that affect this radical plan, with Philly and Pittsburgh together and the two Florida teams thrown into the wind? It's tough to say, although it's interesting to see the reaction of fans of Eastern teams -- they're fine right now, why do they have to change everything?

Any proposal needs 2/3 approval from the BOG to pass and that's the issue right now. I wager that every team in the West would vote for this plan which means we'd need half the teams in the East to follow suit. It's certainly going to be interesting to see what happens -- although signs are finally pointing to the Stars getting out of the Pacific and back into their own time zone.

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